The economic toll of coronavirus, which has forced shutdowns across industries, is now being felt in the capital, with several businesses deciding to go for salary cuts and, if the situation persists, layoffs.
Restaurateur Priyank Sukhija, who employs over 1,100 people across India, has shut all his bars, lounges and restaurants till March 31, including 14 places in Delhi.“Footfall was down 40%, so we took the call, also for the staff’s safety. For the first 10 days, we will likely do a 25% salary cut. If this persists, we will be forced to do a 50% salary cut. If the shutdown stretches beyond a month, we may not be able to afford to keep our staff,” said Sukhija.
Restaurateur Riyaz Amlani, who runs social co-working spaces across major cities, said that on Tuesday night, the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) decided that “shutting down restaurants was the best solution to ensure safety of staff”. “Business at my outlets is down by 60%. It’s best to shut down for four weeks, than letting this spread and bear harsher consequences later,” he said.
Some business owners are asking staff to take “long leaves now instead of during summer vacations”. Sumit Gulati, founder of Spice Market restaurant and cloud kitchens ‘Call Chotu’ and ‘Nayi Dilli ke Paranthe’, said, “Employees will not face pay cuts. We are offering long leaves to staff now instead of summer (May- July).”
At a popular non-veg eatery in East Delhi, delivery personnel wore a worried look as they sat idly outside the restaurant. “Business started suffering 10 days ago. In the last four-five days, it’s less than 50%. People are unsure about eating non-veg food, and we sense that employers may have to sack some of us,” said a 33-year-old delivery personnel.
Delivery personnel, who have maximum exposure, have been instructed to remain outside the kitchen and their temperature is being checked everyday before their shifts, added Gulati.
Karan Tanna, co-founder of Ghost Kitchens, said precautionary measures, including thermal screening employees every alternate day, use of sanitisers and contactless handover of food parcels to aggregator riders, have been adopted by the firm.
Delivery kitchen Instapizza, in a statement, said the firm is taking “extraordinary steps” to ensure its kitchens remain safe. “We have been fortunate none of our team members have displayed symptoms so far. We are ready to step up and allow all team members to self-quarantine with pay. We have also reduced staff at each outlet at any given time to reduce clustering and have divided them into shifts,” it said.
With several bars shutting down across Delhi-NCR until March 31 and a general dip in large events and gatherings after CM Arvind Kejriwal announced that “gatherings of more than 50 people are not allowed”, another workforce that has taken a hit is that of bouncers.
Ajay Sharma, who runs Young Bouncer Club in Rajouri Garden, said, “I employ 40-45 bouncers and other staffers. We have had no work for 10 days as people are not holding parties or events. Bouncers are paid per event. Each bouncer would make roughly Rs 25,000 a month. Now, we are staring at a bleak future. I will have to let many of them go if things don’t improve.”
At Nehru Place, Ravinder Singh, who works at RB Security, said “there has not been a single bouncer request in the last 10 days.”
Salons and gyms across the capital are facing similar worries, with the former seeing a dip in business, and the latter a complete shutdown. Uday Raj Anand, who runs Crush Fitness, said, “We have to look for another business model online but that can’t happen overnight. For the next two weeks, we are ensuring our trainers get up-skilled and take up fitness certification courses. We are also creating digital content for our clients and doing Skype-based training. For now, we won’t do pay cuts, and we may even pay from our pockets, but if this continues, we will have no option but to let go some staff.”
At Fitness Junkie Gym in East Delhi, manager Shivam said the sudden closure on Monday sent trainers and clients into a tizzy. “We don’t know what our fate is as the gym owner is not in Delhi right now. Clients keep calling to ask if these 15 days will be ‘adjusted’ later. We don’t know if we will even have jobs,” he said.
At Looks parlour in Khan Market, a manager said “there has been a 70% dip in business in the last few days”. “We are sanitising equipment, chairs, stairs, door knobs, wearing masks and gloves ourselves. People are only coming in for hair-related services, and are avoiding facials, threading and waxing,” he said.
At an upscale Green Park parlour, one staffer said, “Everyone is sitting idle, why will owners retain so many people if there is no work?”
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